Earlier this month, a group of leaders from World Taekwondo stood smiling before flashing cameras and their newly unveiled organization logo. Since 1973, the sport’s governing body was known as the World Taekwondo Federation, using the acronym WTF to represent its globally recognized organization and mission. But recent “negative connotations” associated with the abbreviation moved the group to change its logo and drop the word “federation”.
As with World Taekwondo’s case, there are a number of reasons a company or organization may choose to change brands. If the rebranding of World Taekwondo took away something unwanted, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s (USSA) recent decision to rebrand to U.S. Ski & Snowboard is somewhat the opposite.
Since the early 1990s, U.S. Ski & Snowboard had four different brands, that of USSA — which served as the organization’s parent brand — along with three national-team logos: U.S. Ski Team, U.S. Snowboarding, and U.S. Freeskiing.
Now, after 112-years in the business, U.S. Ski & Snowboard has decided to unite all teams under one core image: a crest sporting the letters “US” and three white stars floating above two mountain peaks, as well as two diagonal red stripes at the shield’s bottom.
The single core image will be adapted for the following tiers: a master mark (just the U.S. crest),
an organizational mark (the master mark accompanied by the words “Ski & Snowboard”),
and the team mark (the master mark accompanied by the respective national team names).
“Our brand was strong. It wasn’t that we needed to start over, it was just we needed to clean things up and get refocused,” Tom Kelly, U.S. Ski & Snowboard Vice President of Communications, said of the USSA brand during a phone interview last week. The rebrand launched on June 18.
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The idea to change the logo emerged during a USSA strategic planning meeting Kelly attended back in June 2015. He and Luke Bodensteiner, USSA’s executive vice President of athletics, were fueling the winds of change.
“We wanted to provide more value to users of that USSA brand,” Kelly said.
“One of the initial pushes with the rebrand was to figure out how to get some of those more broad-based or grassroots skiing and snowboarding [groups] connected with the ski brand,” Bodensteiner told FasterSkier. “To that point, everything had been separate with USSA and USSA racing; that went all the way down to junior racing or recreational racing. The teams were all separate and they shouldn’t be. It’s all one effort and ideally one family.”
Seeking assistance from outside its own walls, USSA created a task force was created that included Nike Senior Strategic Advisor Jeanne Jackson, who had two children compete with the USSA system, and United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Baird, a chief engineer for the USOC’s redesigned brand for Team USA, among others.
“What Jeanne Jackson did when she started this, was she posed the question to us, and this is a very Nike-type thing, she said ‘Do you want to be a house of brands, or do you want to be a branded house?’” Kelly explained.
For U.S. Ski & Snowboard, the answer was the latter. To fashion the brand, eight different agencies pitched potential templates before one was chosen — all at no cost for U.S. Ski & Snowboard.
“That’s the beauty of it,” Kelly said of the rebrand. “Everything is pro-bono. So we feel really good about that, that we were essentially able to execute that with no costs.”
When the U.S. Ski Team (USST) underwent a brand and logo change nearly 20 years ago in 1999, the cost amounted to more than $50,000 dollars, according to Kelly. Thanks to the pro-bono work done by i.d.e.a, a San Diego-based consulting firm and U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s ultimate pick, all of the national teams in the organization (nordic, alpine, freeskiing, freestyle, snowboarding) are now under the same logo.
“The U.S. Ski Team had a strong brand and a high level of brand equity, but the philosophy is that by bringing all the sports under one image that that might help create greater equity in the brand,” Bodensteiner said.
The USST will remain an official entity under the new brand. All teams will now share a Facebook page dubbed U.S. Ski & Snowboard. USSA Nordic’s Twitter account (@USSA_Nordic) will no longer exist and has been integrated instead into an @usskiteam Twitter account. On Instagram, @usnordicskiteam has been integrated into @usskiteam. The idea in combining social media outlets is to reach a broader audience — nordic fans may be more likely now to be exposed to the news feeds of others sports and vice versa.
“It will be one U.S. Ski and Snowboarding [Facebook] page and it will be varied content throughout all sports all the time — a little bit of alpine, a little bit of nordic, a little bit of freeskiing,” Courtney Harkins, content media manager for U.S. Ski & Snowboard explained on the phone. “It’s going to be really good thing for the cross-country team as well because you have chance to make freeskier fans of Jessie Diggins.
“I think it’s a cool way to broaden and magnify the somewhat specialized fans of cross-country skiing,” Harkins continued. “For example, on the USSA nordic page we had 12,000 fans and now we have a 170,000.”
As of right now, U.S. Ski & Snowboard has made a conscious decision not to acronym its name. The word association was dropped because it was not seen as an “essential component” to the organization’s name.
“As a general rule, acronyming is a bad brand practice,” Kelly wrote in a follow-up email to FasterSkier. “It creates a collection of letters that is not easily recognizable to the majority of people who cross paths with the brand. We’ve been seeking to avoid acronyms for some years, but USSA was ubiquitous. We will always use U.S. Ski & Snowboard and not abbreviate it or create an acronym. And we appreciate users respecting that.”
Ultimately, beyond bringing all U.S. Ski & Snowboard teams under one roof, the rebrand also brings a much simpler connection for its partners both new and old. Toyota, which recently became the official vehicle for U.S. Ski & Snowboard, will now only have one mark to take into consideration for its sponsorship.
“The partners are uniformly thrilled about it because it makes it so much easier for them, than it was before,” Kelly said. “So if you’re a Visa, for example, previously there were three sometimes four different marks they were involved with … that had become a real issue. It was complex, it was expensive and now we’re down to one.”
U.S. Ski & Snowboard is currently in the process of changing its staff email addresses. The “usskiandsnowboard.org” website domain currently redirects readers to ussa.org as the new one has not yet been launched. The decision to do somewhat of a “soft opening” with the brand played into the decision to hold-off.
“You’ll see on our website, we have re-skinned it with the new mark,” Kelly said. “We have a new website developed and it’s in the the wings, but we just chose not to launch it. It was just one more thing to do this week that we felt let’s wait.”
“Once we launch [usskiandsnowboard.org], which will hopefully be this summer, could be later summer, but it’s not going to be in the next few weeks, as soon as we launch that, we will then point any old primary urls to the new site,” Kelly continued. “So you’ll still be able to go to ussa.org and get there, but it won’t be our polished domain.”
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Gabby Naranja considers herself a true Mainer, having grown up in the northern most part of the state playing hockey and roofing houses with her five brothers. She graduated from Bates College where she ran cross-country, track, and nordic skied. She spent this past winter in Europe and is currently in Montana enjoying all that the U.S. northwest has to offer.